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From the Arab Spring to the Western Fall

 

Democratisation has spread in waves across the world; from the collapse of Communism to the Pink Tide, authoritarian regimes have been or are being replaced with elected governments, after their repressed subjects have cried out to become citizens of legitimate nation-states.

 

The most recent example of this change is still in progress, initiated by the rise of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011.

However, while democracy has gained ground in some parts of the world, a new threat has risen in the West. Countries that have traditionally intervened in international affairs in an effort to promote democratic ideals (free and fair elections, freedom of speech, a free press, human rights and the rule of law) seem to be forgetting their liberalist roots. Instead, they find themselves experiencing the darker side of a rising nationalism.

What does this mean for the West? We seem to be forgetting the benefits of pluralism and trying to close our doors on the rest of the world. The UK in particular, seems to believe in an illusion that it is still an independent international power, capable of swaying the changing demographics of the globalised world around it without the clout of the EU. This belief is not just a result of government propaganda. The media in the West has been failing readers by propagating myths that foreigners, especially from the less developed EU Member States, are out to steal jobs from nationals; that we are now living in a culture of benefit tourism and that all our countries' failings stem from the EU.

At the same time, the media fails to remind us of the positive benefits of our EU membership, such as that we are living in the largest Free Trade Zone in the world and that the amount of jobs created through this far outweighs any of the perceived negative effects caused by the movement of EU citizens between Member States. We need the media to disentangle perception from reality. We deserve a fair evaluation of the opportunities and risks associated with EU membership in order to promote reasonable debate based on empirical evidence rather than emotions and fact-less opinion.

For example, in only nine Member States are the majority of foreign workers citizens of another EU country and only two of these states are Western European (Ireland and Luxembourg).

This rise in Nationalism across several Western European countries leaves us in an interesting position for the upcoming European Parliament Elections. Who will be elected? More MEPs like Nigel Farage, a man whose distaste for the EU is loud and clear, and who often vocally criticises EU bureaucracy or wasted public money, but who, when it is time to make an impact or change policy, has one of the worst voting records in the Parliament? Will the EU be flooded with politicians who do not want to make the institution work? Who do not have anything positive to say or any ideas on improvement or how to move the EU forward? Will we find ourselves in a stalemate of democracy, with an EU no longer for the citizens or for Europe?

The misinformation propagated by the Western media contributes significantly to this sense of uncertainty currently surrounding the future of the European Union. If you believe the EU is bad or good, ask yourself why. What policies or actions exactly are you for or against? What initiatives is it that are good or bad and why? How does the EU make your life better or worse, and what are the facts and figures behind that claim?

Remember; accept nothing, question everything.

Clare is a trainee in the European Parliament, where she works on Fundamental Rights in the Committee on Petitions.

 

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